Beginner Tattoo Tips: 11 Suggestions Before Getting Inked

They may be as ubiquitous as avocado toast, but you need to be sure of yourself and think through an action that will have permanent consequences. If you’ve really thought through whether tattoos are the right decision for your life, and you understand that they are extremely difficult and expensive to remove, they’re acceptable in your profession, and you still want one. Then it’s not complicated to get a tattoo.

But there are a few things that a first-time customer should know to start off on the best foot. So here are 11 tips to keep in mind before you get inked up.

1. Find an artist you like

The internet will be super helpful here, but if you have friends with tattoos who you trust, they might be one of your best resources.

You’ll definitely want a licensed tattoo artist who uses hygienic practices, but it’s also pretty important to find an artist whose style matches up with your personal preferences.

Most tattoo artists work hard to develop their own style, and they often dislike being asked to copy other people’s designs. Click around the artist’s website, Instagram or ask to see their flash book at the store itself.

2. Prepare for the process

Tattoo needles are poking ink into your skin with thousands of tiny punctures, after all. As a general rule, tattoos usually hurt the most near bony places like elbows, ribs, ankles and collarbones. Otherwise, tattooing usually feels like a buzzing ballpoint pen pressed against your skin. Your tattoo artist will be able to advise you on what will work best for you.

3. Decide between custom or flash art

Flash tattoos are the kind that tattoo shops display on the wall and in their books. Flash pieces can be a great choice for a first tattoo, but custom artwork is also fun and gets most artists excited to try something different.

Custom art is where you can do whatever you want.

4. Consider what your tattoo means for you

You don’t necessarily have to worry about whether your first tattoo is an intensely meaningful expression of your soul. It can just be a drawing on your skin that looks cool.

Also keep in mind that a visible tattoo is something that other people will ask you about and remark on the rest of your life.

So if you’re going to get a tattoo of, say, a jar of mayo, be prepared to have a good story ready when people ask you why you got a tattoo of a jar of mayo.

5. Go small

For your very first tattoo, it’s ideal to choose a design that’s relatively simple and find an unobtrusive place for it, like your upper back or ankle. That way it’s easy to cover it up later if you have to, and you can also decide whether you like the artist and want to go back to them later for more extensive work.

6. Be willing to pay for good work

Tattoo costs can really vary, but even for a small piece of art, you might be looking at $100 to $300, depending on where you live.

That can seem really steep, but remember, you’re paying a professional to create custom artwork that becomes a part of your physical appearance.

7. Trust your artist

When it comes to design and placement, especially if they tell you that something you want isn’t a great idea. You don’t have to look far on the internet to find some unintentional tattoo fails that could have totally been prevented.

8. Expect wait time between consult and tattoo

Talk to your artist in person about what you want, and then expect that the artist will need at least a day to create the drawing before you can come back for an appointment.

When you make the appointment, you’ll also usually put down a deposit so the artist is sure that you’re not going to bail.

9. Speak up

Speak up if you don’t like the drawing the artist creates for you. It’s going to be on your skin for forever! A good artist will be happy to make adjustments to the drawing before starting the tattoo.

10. Don’t fear the needle

Tattoo needles are very small. They’re more like a small, vibrating pen that’s quickly applying color into your skin. If it grosses you out, don’t watch while the artist works. But most likely, you’ll enjoy watching the process. Sit back and enjoy getting the tattoo.

11. Tip your artist

Tip your artist after the work is done, especially if you really like the job they did. Not all tattoo artists expect it, but it’s still a polite thing to do.